The Effect of inotropes and vasopressors on mortality: A meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials

A. Belletti, M. L. Castro, S. Silvetti, T. Greco, G. Biondi-Zoccai, L. Pasin, A. Zangrillo, G. Landoni

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Background Inotropes and vasopressors are frequently administered to critically ill patients in order to improve haemodynamic function and restore adequate organ perfusion. However, some studies have suggested a possible association between inotrope administration and increased mortality. We therefore performed a meta-analysis of randomized trials published in the last 20 yr to investigate the effect of these drugs on mortality. Methods BioMedCentral, PubMed, Embase and the Cochrane Central Register were searched (all updated April 8th, 2015). Inclusion criteria were: random allocation to treatment, at least one group receiving an inotropic or vasopressor drug compared with at least one group receiving a non-inotropic/vasopressor treatment, study published after 1st January 1994, and systemic drug administration. Exclusion criteria were overlapping populations, studies published as abstract only, crossover studies, paediatric studies and lack of data on mortality. Results A total of 28 280 patients from 177 trials were included. Overall, pooled estimates showed no difference in mortality between the group receiving inotropes/vasopressors and the control group [4255/14 036 (31.7%) vs 4277/14 244 (31.8%), risk ratio=0.98 (0.96-1.01), P for effect=0.23, P for heterogeneity=0.30, I2=6%]. A reduction in mortality was associated with inotrope/vasopressor therapy use in settings of vasoplegic syndromes, sepsis and cardiac surgery. Levosimendan was the only drug associated with improvement in survival. Subgroup analysis did not identify any groups with increased mortality associated with inotrope/vasopressor therapy. Conclusions Our systematic review found that inotrope/vasopressor therapy is not associated with differences in mortality in the overall population and in the majority of subsettings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)656-675
Number of pages20
JournalBritish Journal of Anaesthesia
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1 2015


  • cardiotonic agents
  • heart failure
  • low cardiac output syndrome
  • shock
  • vasoconstrictor agents

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine
  • Medicine(all)


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